Welfare fraud: 28 arrested for allegedly stealing more than $260,000

Thirty-two people were arrested in Tulare County, CA, for alleged Welfare and insurance fraud during the week of July 19, 2019.
Thirty-two people were arrested in Tulare County, CA, for alleged Welfare and insurance fraud during the week of July 19, 2019. Office of District Attorney, County of Tulare

Thirty-two people were arrested this week for alleged fraud in Tulare Country.

Of those, 28 were arrested on suspicion of committing welfare fraud. They were cited or booked into the Tulare County Jail pre-trail facility, according to a news release from the district attorney’s office.

The total amount of alleged fraud in these cases was $261,023, according to the news release.

Those arrested were: Mayra Alcauter, 22, of Tulare; Katherine Benitez, 29, of Ivanhoe; Richard Esparza, 43, Visalia; Tamara Harmon, 27, Visalia; Guadalupe Centeno, 20, Visalia; Maurice Lacy, 37, Visalia; Kay Lopez, 41, Porterville; Guadalupe Martinez, 47, Porterville; Jazelle Padilla, 25, Visalia; Selena Renteria, 35, Visalia; Fabiola Rivas, 44, Visalia; Isabel Robles, 51, Visalia; Elaine Sanchez, 53, Dinuba; Alma Sanchez, 20, Porterville; Octavio Silva, 32, Visalia; Diana Vorhies, 49, Visalia; Arturo Cabrera, 24, Farmersville; Erika Alcantar, 40, Porterville; Jose Sanchez, 44, Porterville; Elvira De La Cruz, 41, Farmersville; Vanessa Johnson, 44, Visalia; Lisa Agundis, 19, Porterville; Jorge Gonzalez, 21, Farmersville; Jessica McKay, 19, Tulare; Socorro Campos, 69, Visalia; Pamela Goldstein, 41, Visalia; Brittany Dowdy, 25, Visalia; and Sheila Bell, 32, Porterville.

Another four were arrested, booked into jail or cited on suspicion of committing auto insurance fraud. They are: John Martinez, 29, Ivanhoe; Kristy Sandoval, 43, Ivanhoe; Joseph Crumm, 53, Visalia; and Ismelda Orozco, 51, Visalia.

The total cost of the alleged fraud in those cases was $8,301, the DA’s office said.

Since last summer, the DA’s Bureau of Investigations received more than 70 referrals and reports of fraudulent auto insurance claims, including obtaining coverage for a vehicle after an accident, false reporting of a vehicle theft or accident and falsely reporting of the driver of a vehicle or other circumstances related to a claim.

It is a felony to make a false statement or misrepresentation of material facts for more than $950 in insurance claims, and penalties for fraud can range from suspension or elimination of benefits to restitution, probation or jail or prison terms, according to the news release.

In 2018, the bureau identified $989,685 in fraudulent welfare benefits — from failing to report income or changes in household composition to trafficking EBT benefits for financial gain. Felony criminal charges were filed in 85 cases, the release said.

“Fraud and abuse hurts everyone, from putting funds necessary to help the truly needy in jeopardy, to insurance rates going up for consumers,” District Attorney Tim Ward said.

If the public has further information related to suspected fraud, contact the Bureau of Investigations at 559-636-5410.

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